Pingree takes on Thelander in bid for 8th term at US House


U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree stopped by Starbucks in Portland’s Old Port last week to offer support to 15 workers trying to form a union and negotiate higher wages to meet housing costs.

Pingree is a longtime supporter of workers’ rights and said it was outrageous that another employer recently closed the doors of a Maine restaurant after workers there voted to unionize. “The only reason we have the (National Labor Relations Board) is to protect workers’ rights from these same tactics,” she said.

Ed Thelander, meanwhile, mingled with construction industry employers last week in West Bath at a career day for secondary school students.

“They need people in those jobs,” said Thelander, wearing a royal blue Navy SEAL Museum shirt. “We really should be encouraging young people to consider these careers, not just academia.”

Pingree, a Democrat, has represented coastal Maine and the southern 1st congressional district since 2009 and hopes to win an eighth term on November 8. Thelander, a former Republican Navy SEAL and newcomer to the Maine political scene, is campaigning to end this dragging victory.

The pair will square off Wednesday night in a debate sponsored by The Portland Press Herald and Maine Public. It will air live beginning at 8 p.m. on pressherald.com.

Pingree has easily defended his seat over the years. In 2020, she won re-election with 62% of the vote and her district is heavily biased towards Democrats. A September poll from the University of New Hampshire showed Pingree leading Thelander 57% to 32%. Pingree also leads in the cash race, with $615,000 in cash, according to the latest federal campaign reports, compared to $154,000 for Thelander.

Rep. Chellie Pingree shakes hands with Workers United Rep. Patrick Bruce, who is trying to start a union at Starbucks in Portland. Brianna Soukup/staff photographer

Pingree, 67, lives in North Haven, an island in Penobscot Bay. A former state senator, Pingree challenged Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins in 2002, but lost that race. Before winning her congressional seat in 2008, Pingree was president and CEO of Common Cause, a national nonprofit whose mission was to police government. She has three adult children.

Thelander, 53, served in the Navy for 21 years and participated in US operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, according to his campaign website. . He lives in Bristol with his wife, Liliana, who immigrated from Venezuela and became an American citizen in 1999. They have three children.

The candidates, like their parties, have opposing views on a wide variety of issues facing Congress and the state.

ABORTION RIGHTS

Pingree supports efforts to pass federal law restoring access to abortion nationwide following the Supreme Court’s decision this summer overturning Roe v. Wade.

Maine law protects abortion until a fetus is viable, which means between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. But, Pingree said, if Republicans took control of the Maine Legislature and the Blaine House, that could change.

“It’s easy to be a little complacent because of the laws we have on the books. But elections can change that overnight. I think we need federal protections,” Pingree said.

Many states have already banned abortion since the ruling, and some Republicans in Congress are calling for the passage of a nationwide abortion ban. “There’s a lot at stake, and it’s a reminder that it really matters who gets elected,” Pingree said.

U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree’s Republican challenger Ed Thelander shakes hands with Asplundh Tree Experts Regional Director Hank Kay during a campaign stop at Maine’s Construction Career Day in West Bath. Ben McCanna / Personal Photographer

Thelander, on the other hand, said he was “pro-life” and did not support federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade and to restore the right to abortion throughout the country.

But he broke with some members of his party on the proposed national ban on abortion. If elected and the abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, comes to a vote in the House, “I would vote no,” Thelander said.

Instead, Thelander said he thinks abortion rights should be decided on a state-by-state basis because voters have such divergent views on abortion across the country. “I believe (abortion policy) belongs at the state level because that’s how we get along in America,” Thelander said.

FEDERAL SPENDING

Pingree supported the Biden administration’s ambitious Build Back Better bill, which included investments in paid family leave, child care and pre-kindergarten programs, as well as climate initiatives and health. After that effort failed, Pingree and other Democrats narrowly approved the Cut Inflation Act in August, which includes $430 billion in new spending, mostly for clean energy and health care. health.

Chellie Pingree in the Old Port of Portland on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Pingree said the reduced law is still a “game changer” that will make a difference in people’s lives, citing as an example rebates for fuel-efficient heat pumps that will make them more affordable and reduce reliance on fuel oil.

Thelander said he was against the Cut Inflation Act measures that tip the balance too much in favor of clean energy at a time when the energy industry may not be not yet ready for the transition. For example, he said he was against extending tax credits for electric vehicles because he thinks the industry may not be ready to produce enough batteries to meet demand.

“We need to make a smart transition to green energy,” Thelander said.

Thelander said he’s in favor of “pumping more oil” into the United States, but he doesn’t oppose clean energy either. “We need to get greener,” he said.

POLICE

Thelander campaigned on law and order issues, noting a recent spike in shootings in Portland. In September, Thelander held a press conference in the city saying more needed to be done to support law enforcement.

Ed Thelander, Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. Ben McCanna / Personal Photographer

Thelander, in an interview, criticized Pingree’s stance against no-knock warrants and qualified immunity for police officers, saying such reforms would hamper the ability of police officers to do their jobs. No-knock warrants allow police to enter a property without first announcing their presence. Qualified immunity provides police officers with protection from civil suits for actions in the course of their duties.

Thelander said he would support additional federal funds to be spent on police training and equipment, especially for small, under-resourced rural police departments. And, he said, “the demonization of law enforcement must stop.”

Pingree said she has always supported increased federal funding for policing, but also advocates for reforms that include the elimination of qualified immunity and no-knock warrants, which have been criticized for leading to unnecessary injuries or deaths when people mistake the police for trespassers, for example.

Pingree said the reforms would “strike a balance” between police still having the flexibility to do their jobs and being held accountable when they do harm.

ELECTORAL INTEGRITY

Election integrity is also on the ballot in November, Pingree said, with some Republicans erroneously claiming Biden “stole” the 2020 election and was not rightfully elected president.

With former President Donald Trump pumping up debunked election conspiracy theories, ‘it’s allowed every politician to say they’ve been ripped off in the election,’ said Pingree, who has backed reforms to thwart efforts future to cancel the presidential elections.

Thelander is distancing himself from some Republicans and not embracing conspiracy theories that falsely claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.

“Yes, Joe Biden is President of the United States,” Thelander said. “The country must heal and move on. I wouldn’t bother running if I thought it was rigged.


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